Turner, William (1651-1740) (DNB00)

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TURNER, WILLIAM (1651–1740), musician, born in 1651, was the son of Charles Turner, cook of Pembroke College, Oxford. At the restoration of church choirs William Turner became a choirboy under Edward Lowe [q. v.] at Christ Church, but was soon afterwards, according to Tudway, in the Chapel Royal, where he was reckoned one of the ‘second set of choirboys.’ He formed a close friendship with the most distinguished members of the older set, Pelham Humfrey [q. v.] and John Blow [q. v.], and shared with them in the production of the ‘Club Anthem.’ Tudway relates that this work was composed in one day, and performed the following day, news arriving on Saturday of a victory over the Dutch. There are chronological difficulties [see Blow, John] in connection with Tudway's account. Turner's share of the anthem was the middle portion, a bass solo. After his voice had broken, he developed a fine counter-tenor, and sang for a time at Lincoln Cathedral. He was sworn a gentleman of the Chapel Royal on 11 Oct. 1669. He soon afterwards became also a vicar choral of St. Paul's and a lay vicar of Westminster Abbey.

Turner had a considerable share in the celebrations of St. Cecilia's Day, which took place nearly every year from 1683 to 1702. In 1685 he was selected to compose the ode, which that year was written by Nahum Tate. The result was probably unsatisfactory; the music was not printed (though the odes sung in 1683 and 1684, set by Purcell and Blow, had been), and is now lost, the celebration being suspended the following year. Turner appears in the list of singers at the celebration of 1687, and again in 1692 and 1695, the only celebrations at which the performers' names are preserved. In 1696 Turner graduated Mus. Doc. Cantabr.; a grand concert was given at the Commencement on 7 July. A Latin poem written on the occasion was printed on a folio sheet; it compliments Turner as inferior to Purcell alone. For St. Cecilia's day, 1697, when Dryden's ‘Alexander's Feast’ was the ode, Turner composed an anthem, ‘The King shall rejoice,’ sung at the service in St. Bride's, Fleet Street, which began the celebration. In 1698 he set the birthday ode for the Princess Anne; and announced a second performance on 4 May at the concert-room in York Buildings, ‘with other variety of new vocal and instrumental musick, composed by Dr. Turner, and for his benefit’ (London Gazette, 2 May 1698). On 31 Jan. 1701 Weedon gave a performance at Stationers' Hall before the houses of parliament; Turner composed two anthems for the occasion. Another anthem, ‘The Queen shall rejoice,’ was produced at the coronation of Queen Anne. He died at his house in King Street, Westminster, on 13 Jan. 1739–40. His wife Elizabeth, to whom he had been married nearly seventy years, had died on the 9th; and they were buried on the 16th in the same grave, in the west cloister of Westminster Abbey. By his will, dated 1728, he had bequeathed all his property to his wife, except one shilling to each of his five children. The youngest, Anne [see under Robinson, John, (1682–1762)], proved the will on 14 Feb. 1740.

Turner composed both sacred and secular music. Songs and catches were printed in several collections; and many more exist, a manuscript in the Fitzwilliam Museum containing more than a hundred. British Museum Addit. MS. 19759, dated 1681, contains unharmonised tunes for Thomas Flatman's elegy on the Earl of Rochester, and four other poems. His sacred music is more remarkable. One piece was printed in John Playford's ‘Harmonia Sacra,’ 1688. Two complete services and six anthems (including ‘The King shall rejoice’ and ‘The Queen shall rejoice’) are in Tudway's scores; eight more anthems are preserved at Ely Cathedral, and others at Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal. One of Turner's anthems, ‘Lord, Thou hast been our Refuge,’ is printed in Boyce's ‘Cathedral Music;’ and another, ‘Lift up your heads,’ in Warren's ‘Chorister's Handbook’ and in the ‘Parish Choir,’ vol. iii. Chants by Turner are in the ‘Parish Choir,’ vol. i. and Rimbault's ‘Cathedral Chants.’ A theoretical treatise, ‘Sound Anatomised,’ followed by an essay on ‘The Great Abuse of Musick,’ 1724, was by William Turner, who is not styled Mus. Doc. Its author was probably a William Turner who published some sonatas about that period; but it has been sometimes ascribed to Dr. Turner, and is singularly antiquated in several respects, even arguing against key-signatures as unnecessary. The younger William Turner also composed songs for several plays, which are inaccurately described as operas in Brown and Stratton's ‘British Musical Biography’ and ascribed to Dr. Turner.

[Cheque-book of the Chapel Royal, in Camden Society's publications, 1872; Gent. Mag. 1740, p. 36; Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, p. 353; Graduati Cantabrigienses, p. 480; Tudway's scores and prefaces, Harleian MSS. 7337–42; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, chaps. 158, 167; Burney's Hist. of Music, iii. 460; Husk's Musical Celebrations on St. Cecilia's Day, pp. 21, 23, 29, 36, 39, 147; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, iv. 194; manuscripts quoted.]

H. D.